The Private Members Ballot
Sat, 15 Jun 2019
"Good news my Lord," Box said one morning, as he brought me my morning toast, post and coffee. "You've been drawn first in the Private Members ballot. You have the right to bring a Bill before the House."
"Please tell me I'm still dreaming Box. A Bill sounds like ridiculously hard work. It's the government's job to bring Bills, my job's to turn up, have a nap on the Peers benches and claim the £500 daily appearance fee plus expenses. I don't even remember entering the ballot."
"I took the liberty of adding your name to the list, my Lord."
"But why? The sole reason I entered politics was to avoid work, and here you are making it for me."
"Because of the trading value, my Lord. One of the keener Peers who failed to win the ballot is bound to offer favours in return for your putting your name to their Bill, meaning they do all the work and you get all the credit. It's how Lord Smelty got his new Rolls Royce, Baroness Braithwaite gave it to him in return for putting her Chimpanzee Welfare Bill to the House. It didn't even have a chance of passing, it was dismissed after ten minutes."
"I wondered what old Smelly Smelty was up to. He was never animal rights brigade, the only Peer I know who can legitimately claim to have shot his own robes. You can still see some of the bullet holes. Well, if a Rolls is the going rate I won't complain, bring on the monkey rights brigade. You're not such an idiot after all Box."
"Thank you my Lord. I have your order papers for the day, the gossip pages of the more gossipy newspapers and your speech for this afternoon."
"Speech? I'm not doing my votes for monkeys Bill already am I?"
"No my Lord, you're doing the Greebling Street High School."
"That ghastly school for urchins. What on am I doing that for?"
"You're forgetting, my Lord, the school is very much Councilor Biggleswade's pet project."
"Oh yes. Always have to keep in the local party Chair's good books, you never know when you need his help getting planning permission for some affordable flats on the old family swamp land. What am I talking to the little urchins about?"
"It's part of their careers series - they have a guest speaker every week apparently, they had a man from the local slaughterhouse last week. I took the liberty of drafting a speech on 'A Career in Politics - Making a Difference'.
I quickly skimmed through the speech, as I munched my third slice of toast with my left hand.
"Excellent Box, four amusing anecdotes, five VIP names dropped, and no political issues mentioned whatsoever. That's the sort of speech I like. Now clear away my breakfast things, some of us have important work to attend in the mother of all parliaments.
I slept through a morning's debate on the Shipping Finance (Amendments to Amendments) Regulations, had a brief 45 minute lunch in the House of Lords Dining Room, and returned home to prepare for my visit to the Greebling Street school for disreputable urchins.
"I have a briefing for your school trip," Box said, handing me a sheet of paper. "I asked for photos and names of all the children you'll be speaking to."
"But these pictures are rubbish, all the faces are blacked out. And these aren't names, Child A, Child B, what is this Box, a criminal case?"
"It's the Privacy Act, my Lord. It was all the school were allowed to send me."
"I wish someone would scrap these ridiculous laws. How am I supposed to recognise the children if they're not blacked up to match the pictures, and if I asked them to black up I'd get in trouble for that."
"Perhaps your Private Members Bill could address the issue my Lord."
"Steady on Box, I may be opposed to all this political correctness, health and safety and anonymsed children nonsense but that doesn't mean I'm going to wear myself out actually doing something about it."
In spite of my reservations about the school, my speech went well, the children were very well behaved, mostly because their noses were buried in their phones the whole time. The teachers laughed dutifully at my amusing anecdotes and the whole school applauded the end of my speech, when ordered to do so by the head teacher, a terrifying young woman named Gannet.
"That was very illuminating," said Gannet. "I never realised politics could be so amusing. We know Lord Lord is a busy man, but perhaps you'll have time for a few questions before you go?"
"I bloody well don't," I started to say, but she cut me off before I got to "I".
"Thank you. Oh look, hands in the air straight away, clearly a lot of potential politicians here today. Yes, Tommy, you were first."
"Lord Lord, the news is full of politicians admitting taking cocaine and cannabis. Have you ever taken drugs?"
This question was met with laughter and I decided to respond with an amusing reply.
"Oh they're not drugs, cannabis, cocaine, I've had stronger stuff in my coffee. I lived through the sixties, we really knew how to do drugs then, LSD, magic mushrooms, uppers, downers, those blue pills that make you think you're a rabbit. I've probably taken more drugs than all the leadership contenders together."
The little kiddies lapped up my confession, so much so I was able to get away without any further Qs or As.
The next morning Box woke me with coffee, toast and post as usual. "And these are your order papers for the day," he said, about to leave.
"What about the gossip pages of the gossipy newspapers?" I said.
"Ah, I thought my Lord would want to give them a miss this morning, at least until the other side of coffee."
"Give them a miss? They're the highlight of my day, why would I give them a miss?"
"I'm afraid that they're mostly about you, my Lord."
"Your drugs confession is on all the front pages. Several of the children recorded your speech, it's all over social media." He showed me the headlines he'd been hiding from me. 'Drugs Lord confesses all', 'Cannabis, cocaine, I have stronger powder in my coffee, admits Tory Peer', 'My Secret Life as a Rabbit - Lord Lord reveals all'.
"I'm afraid the whip is furious," he added, as if I needed more bad news.
"But why? All the leadership candidates are boasting about their drug use."
"Exactly, you knock all their boasts into a cocked hat, their attempts to appear 'cool' by admitting to smoking a spliff 30 years ago look rather ridiculous compared to, and I quote the Guardian here, 'The Hunter S Thompson of the Lords'."
"Honestly Box, how dare you quote the Guardian in this house. What on earth am I going to do? The last peer that wrought the fury of the Chief Whip was banned from sleeping in the chamber - poor soul was dead within a month from sheer exhaustion."
"I took the liberty of drafting this press release, in which you explain that you were simply explaining from your own experience the harm drugs can do, and that this is the reason you are bringing a Bill before the House to tackle drug use among young children. I've got the Bill here."
"Good Lord Box, you really are a marvel. I mean, yes you sometimes burn the toast, and the coffee is a bit weak and not as hot as it should be, but I can't believe you've written an entire parliamentary Bill while I've been here snoozing."
"Oh I didn't write it, it's the same Bill that Viscount Salt brought before the House when he was named the head of a local drugs ring. The Bill's bound to be voted down again, it actually requires the government to spend money on socially beneficial issues, but at least it'll buy you some good publicity. It worked for Viscount Salt, he avoided prison and was promoted to junior Minister for Children."
"I guess this means I've blown my chance of a free Rolls Royce. Oh well, the goodwill of the Chief Whip is something money can't buy, eh Box."
"That's not what I heard, my Lord. Apparently the going rate is £250,000, which is considerably more than the cost of a Rolls. I took the liberty of opting for the least expensive option."
"You think of everything Box. Perhaps some more coffee before I get up and face the world. And put some coffee in it this time."